By Ken McMillan
NEWBURGH – On the day of his first hometown boxing match, Marquise Williams spent the afternoon with his coach, Leonard Lee. He slept a bit and basically hung out.
“We talked, argued and laughed … all kind of stuff,’’ Lee said. “We were just relaxing.’’
As the Newburgh Free Academy gymnasium filled to half-capacity for the New York Daily News Golden Gloves semifinals, Williams kept to himself in the downstairs locker room. He got weighed in, ate a bit and had his hands taped.
It was a long wait for Williams and his friends and followers in the bleachers and ringside metal chair seats. There were 11 fights on the schedule – most of the three-round, three-minute variety – and it started with two female fights, followed by the men in the lighter weights. Williams didn’t make it into the ring until well past 10 o’clock for the final bout of the night, a 201-pound open semifinal against Matthew Tinker of the New York Athletic Club.
“I am feeling great,’’ Williams said about 90 minutes before his bout. “The hour before you fight in your hometown, there’s a lot of peer pressure and everything. It’s a good feeling at the same time.’’
Lee, once Williams’ legal guardian, was also feeling the pressure and probably not as well.
“My stomach is all in knots,’’ Lee said. “I am hoping he does the right thing.’’
In an unexpected turn of events, Lee was asked not to be in Williams’ corner. Manager Pat Zagarino and trainer Mike Murphy – who handled Williams when he trained at the Atlantic Veterans Memorial Boxing Club in Bellport, Long Island, for much of 2016 – handled the corner work. The decision caught Lee a bit by surprise and when asked how he felt about it, Lee said, “I don’t know.’’
“I like to be right there in his face,’’ he said. “It is what it is. I will be close by. He’s going to hear me. They want me on the side. I do a lot of screaming and yelling.’’
Lee said he knows who Williams will turn to when the time comes.
“I am his coach and mentor and, I guess, confidante,’’ he said. “He comes to me.’’
Scouting reports are rare in the amateur boxing ranks. All Williams learned about his opponent Tinker was he’s tall and has a good jab.
“I’ll counter his jab and work the body and get him up and out of here,’’ Williams said.
Lee said it was important for his fighter to be aggressive from the start, use his “vicious” jabs and seize control of the fight.
“In amateur boxing, you can’t wait,’’ Lee said. “In professional boxing you get to set them up, feel them out. In amateurs, you got three rounds, three minutes, so you have to go get him. … If he touches that boy, he lets that individual know that ‘I am in charge.’ That’s good.’’
Former World champion Iran Barkley was in attendance and used the showcase to meet and greet fans. Barkley would like to add his name to a potential boxing club proposed for Broadway in the City of Newburgh.